DCM or dilated cardiomyopathy is one of the biggest concerns to most owners feeding their dogs a 100% plant-based diet as it is what has made the headlines when anyone mentions a ‘legume-rich’ vegan dog food diet.

It is a complicated issue that has blown up as certain brands containing legumes are said to be the cause when there is no solid data to support this theory. Legumes are getting the blame with terms used such “anti-nutrients” and “lectins.” The theory was that because grain free foods have legumes in them to replace the grain starches, it blocks taurine synthesis due to these anti-nutrients found in legumes and fibre-rich foods.

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That theory doesn’t make sense based on a number of reasons, some are that “anti-nutrients” are destroyed by high heat like processing kibble by extrusion, and DCM isn’t being reported in the big 5 brands that have grain free lines (possibly biased reporting by the large pet food companies).

Supplementing with taurine, while it has a high safe upper limit so it’s ok; is not necessarily going to protect your dog from DCM. Many of the dogs in the studies had normal serum taurine.





Thankfully we have possibly the most in-depth article written in June 2020 that tackles these questions:

Here is a resume of the article:

According to the FDA’s 2018 report, lentils, peas, and other legumes (pulse ingredients) have been speculated to be responsible for diet-associated DCM. However, this hypothesis may be unsupported by evidence-based research. In a study conducted at the University of Illinois, in a controlled environment, dogs were fed 45% legumes or fed a diet primarily comprised of poultry byproduct. Interestingly, over the 90 day study, there was no significant difference when comparing plasma amino acids between groups.

Additionally, comparing the plasma and whole blood taurine concentrations between groups was not significantly different. Therefore, since there was no change in taurine concentrations with dogs being fed a diet containing 45% legumes, legumes are more than likely not a cause of taurine-deficient DCM. Further supporting this, compared commercial diets being consumed by dogs diagnosed with DCM. While all initial ingredients in the ingredient list were not reported, this study did report 12 out of 13 diets were grain-free and 10 out of 13 contained legumes in the first five ingredients.

However, 22 out of 23 of these dogs were eating less than the maintenance energy requirements and brand suggested feeding guidelines. This may have resulted in a suboptimal intake of sulphur-containing amino acids and not pulse ingredients. This exhaustive review of the literature provides support that eliminates the pet food characteristics that have been implicated to have a subjective association with DCM. To determine if DCM can be associated with certain categories of diets would require further prospective studies that remove confounding factors.

Nutrient Deficiencies Deficiencies in certain nutrients are known to play a role in the development of DCM. These include taurine, carnitine, and their precursors, such as methionine and cysteine (taurine) and lysine and methionine (carnitine). Thiamine, copper, potassium, vitamin E, and selenium deficiencies have also been associated with myocardial damage; however, further investigation is needed to determine if they are contributing factors to the development of DCM. Internal factors and competitive and noncompetitive interactions Internal factors, such as nutrient status of the animal, genetics, sex, pregnancy, lactation, chronic and acute infection, and disease state, can also affect the bioavailability of some nutrients. Non-competitive interactions can occur. For example, phytates contained in unrefined cereals, legumes, nuts, and oilseeds will bind certain cations to form insoluble compounds. This may lead to zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium being poorly absorbed.

Do legumes contain ‘anti-nutrients’? Legumes are high in saponins, lectins, phytates, and trypsin inhibitors, we call these “anti-nutrients.” They are components of plants that are designed to protect the plant from being eaten by insects and other predators, but for us and our dogs, they can make it difficult to absorb the good nutrients. All plants (including grains, nuts and seeds) have saponins and lectins, but they are usually concentrated in the seeds, beans are seeds. Lectins are found in all living things, even the mammalian body. Legumes can be problematic for the body for a few reasons. They are hard to digest and have the potential to feed the bad bacteria in our pets’ stomachs. They can interact with the gut barrier and can possibly create holes in the surface of membranes of their digestive tracts, making the intestinal cells permeable, also known as leaky gut. Leaky gut occurs when the cells that form the tight bond between of the intestinal walls are damaged. Then molecules that should not cross into the body can, and our pet’s immune systems are fired up. Antinutrients like phytic acid, a phytate, binds to minerals and makes it difficult to absorb them. Phytic acid inhibits digestive enzymes amylase, trypsin, and pepsin. Amylase breaks down carbohydrates while trypsin and pepsin breakdown protein foods.   What can we do to make legumes more tolerable for our pets’ bodies? When we soak legumes (or even nuts, seeds and grains) for a set amount of time and they begin to sprout, this is called germination. This process neutralises some of the saponins, lectins, phytates, and trypsin inhibitors. Soaking can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. Soaking beans for up to 18 hours can help reduce the phytic acid by 70%. Studies have shown that sprouting foods leads to increased enzyme activity, improved amino acid content, better absorption of B vitamins, and a decrease in anti-nutrients. During germination, enzymes are generated that can help with digestion and nutrient absorption. The enzymes can help increase the good bacteria in your dog’s gut, thus helping reduce the inflammatory reaction that legumes, nuts, and seeds can sometimes cause. Owners (or people) who switch from unsprouted to sprouted foods usually see improvements in digestion. Nuts and seeds also have some problematic nutrients. Soaking nuts and seeds can make them more tolerable to for our pets’ bodies. Even grains can be soaked and sprouted to help improve their nutrient value and our tolerance to them. It has also been found that sprouted grains had higher protein content, more amino acids, and less anti-nutrients. Similarly, some seeds when sprouted have concentrated amino acids and become more absorbable. Sprouted grains have also been shown to have a higher fibre content.   How to Soak and Sprout The sprouting process is almost always the same, with only the time being a variable. Basic sprouting (germination) includes a few steps:

  1. Soak beans in their jar overnight for 6-12 hours. Make sure to cover them with enough water, as they are going to absorb a lot.
  2. In the morning, drain the beans in the jar. Place the jar on a saucer and cover with a tea towel as they need to germinate in the dark.
  3. For the next 2 – 4 days rinse the beans 2 to 3 times a day, mixing gently, making sure to fully drain them every time.
  4. When you can see the green sprout, and it is about a 1cm long they are ready. Store them in the fridge, but you should eat them quickly as they can go bad very quickly.

*Note the timing of soaking and sprouting may change for different types of legumes, nuts and seeds. After Step 1, there will be an increase in enzyme phytase, helping to diminish mineral binding phytates, trypsin inhibitors, and lectins. The enzyme activity will continue to increase after step one, so if desired continue to the sprouting steps. The beans can now be cooked into our Supersprouts recipe and have many more benefits than if you did not germinate them. What it comes down to is figuring out what works for you and finding your tolerance to legumes, nuts, seeds, and even some grains. If you want to eat a serving of beans, sprout it first!

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